An interpretation of the East Asia Committee’s visit to the Taiwanese ‘Embassy’.
“You kill the chicken to scare the monkey
The East Asia Committee’s visit to the Taiwanese “embassy” can be summarized by this Chinese proverb, to explain China’s strategy regarding Taiwan – flexing military power and using diplomatic intimidation to scare the Taiwanese government, without concretely adopting any action against the island and its allies. The quote shows what made the visit to the embassy unique, as highlighted by us participants: we did not expect Taiwan’s diplomats to be so outspoken against China’s intimidations, so direct and frank about China’s violations of human rights and international agreements. As one of those participants, I will hereby provide an overview of what I learned during the visit to the Taipei Representative Office.
After the ambassador’s presentation, a short video was presented, depicting Taiwan as a champion of democracy in an increasingly authoritarian post-covid world. The video introduced Taiwan as a country we should care about because of its opposition to the increasingly threatening People’s Republic of China (PRC), framing the island as a pillar of democracy on the forefront of a struggle against authoritarianism.
After the video, the friendly relation between the Netherlands and Taiwan was celebrated. After all, the Dutch OCV’s rule was positive, and Philips – the multinational conglomerate company – was the first company that invested in Taiwan in the 80s, triggering its development. The current success of the Dutch-Taiwanese trade, the Netherlands being Taiwan’s 2nd biggest trading partner, was also mentioned.
Most notably, we focused on Taiwan’s struggle with the PRC, concluding that PRC’s claims about reunification are groundless, as the PRC never actually ruled over the island – thus, reunification is a joke. It was argued that the significant part of the struggle lies in the fact that, if the PRC takes Taiwan, they will consolidate their grasp on the South China Sea. Control over this area, which hosts 30% of the world shipping trade, would increase the PRC’s power over other countries’ economies, and consequently their systems. In other words, if Taiwan falls, it will have catastrophic impacts for the rest of the democratic world. Additionally, we discussed that the PRC threatens Taiwan through a Gray Zone warfare, with five main characteristics: diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, cyber attacks and misinformation, maritime provocation, and the flexing of military muscles. Arguably, in response to this, Taiwan cannot but react by building up its military capabilities, and looking for foreign support.
In conclusion, the visit to the Taiwanese ‘embassy’ was a success, mostly due to the availability and the openness of the Office’s staff. I was positively surprised by how explicit they were in addressing the contested issue of cross-strait relations, helping me to understand the complex dynamics behind the dispute.
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